Various virtues: an interview with David Lloyd, part1.

One of the great artists of British and American comics, David Lloyd gently agreed to talk to me about his early works, new projects and of course V for Vendetta. So, here is part1 of our e-mail interview.

Wellington Srbek: It is a great joy to be talking to you, Mr. Lloyd! Please tell your fans when and where you were born, and how did you begin your carrier?

David Lloyd: Born in 1950, in a town called Enfield in England. I left school at 16 and got a job as a trainee commercial artist, messenger and general gofer at an advertising art studio in central London. I was there for two and a half years, learning some of my trade, then left it on the tissue-thin promise of being able to sell a strip series I'd created to a European features syndicate. Regrettably, the prospect turned out to be an illusion, but I didn't want to go back to a nine-to-five job, so I was forced to do small art jobs as a freelancer, and then, eventually, a couple of non-art-related part-time jobs for four years. I got a foothold into the comics business with a commission to do all the illustration work in a book of the TV series Logan's Run. My career snowballed from there, I'm glad to say.

WS: In late 70s and early 80s, there were in England lots of magazines related to television and movies, and also the Marvel UK publications. You, Steve Moore, Alan Moore, Alan Davis, Dave Gibbons and many others got the first regular jobs in those magazines. How important they were?

DL: Well, some of us got our first regular work on them, others not - Dave started in 2000AD. Britain has a tradition of comics inspired by radio and TV shows that stretches back to the 40s. Films inspired less of them. But of course they were important because they gave us all work and a chance to practice our craft. The children’s annuals - gift books that are published for sale at Xmas time, featuring articles, photos, stories and strips on popular TV shows of the time - were especially important in giving breaks to up-and-comers. They had low production budgets and paid contributors poorly, so the publishers couldn't employ established artists to work on them. Logan’s Run was one of those books. I did a bunch more after that.

WS: The Night Raven strip in Hulk Weekly was the work that brought you to the attention of comic book readers. Tell us about this character and your work on that strip.

DL: This'll be a long answer. One of my earliest jobs was drawing a comic strip adaptation of one of the Quatermass movies for a monthly film magazine called House of Hammer, whose editor was a guy called Dez Skinn. Later, he got the job of editing a weekly comic called Hulk Weekly for Marvel UK, which was launched in England to capitalize on the appearance here of the Hulk TV show. To his credit, Dez convinced Marvel to invest in originated product for the comic, not just reprint US material. Dez liked the quality of work I'd done for him before and asked me to join the art team on Hulk and come up with a visualization of the main character of one of the series scheduled to feature in it: Night Raven. I saw him as looking kind of like Indiana Jones - before Raiders of the Lost Ark came out. It was the outfit I gave him in a later prequel: Night Raven - House of Cards. Anyway, I conceived of this “Indiana Jones” look because it made him an action character. I was aware we were doing this for the Marvel company, so I thought that was a perfectly appropriate approach to take.
Unfortunately, this design was rejected by Dez and Steve Parkhouse - who was the writer - because they wanted a cross between The Spirit and The Shadow. Steve did some sketches which put a trenchcoat on the character. They even gave me some photocopies of Mike Kaluta's Shadow to put me on the right track. I thought it was the wrong track considering it was a Marvel book, but I had no power to object to these requirements - I'd only been in the business for a couple of years and had no influence. And, of course, I was a professional whose job was to follow a brief, not question my editor's judgment. But I regretted not being able to give the character an original look - not one blended from two other old concepts. I did have the freedom to get him out of the trenchcoat when he was involved in actionful moments, but otherwise he had to wear it. It was a shame, because as part of the early concept I'd given him the skill of a lightning quick draw from twin shoulder holsters, which now only worked as an effective fighting tool when he'd dispensed with his trenchcoat.
Later on, Dez had a visit from a US Marvel exec who'd come over to overlook progress on the comic. One of the things he suggested to Dez was that Night Raven be more actionful and Marvel-like. I could have said “I told you so” to Dez, but I was still just a nobody artist trying to earn a crust, and creating waves was not to my benefit. Anyway, from that point on I started using more Marvel-style effects, but it was pointless because shortly thereafter Dez took me off the strip and gave it to John Bolton. Ironically, what John ended up doing with Night Raven turned out to be quite conservative in treatment, and not Marvel-ish at all. And then the strip was cancelled.
I returned to the character years later by request, but did so only on the condition that I could draw the character the way I'd originally envisioned it. And that was House of Cards.

WS: Film noir and pulp literature are very important influences on Night Raven. But what comics have influenced you in the development of your unique style?

DL: Well, I was a big fan of Steve Ditko in Amazing Adult Fantasy. Frank Bellamy - an English artist who drew a newspaper strip called Garth. Ron Embleton, Tony Weare and John M. Burns. EC comics and the Warren comic magazines of the mid-sixties like Blazing Combat and Creepy. I was astounded by much of the work in those, from people like Gene Colan, Angelo Torres, [Alex] Toth, etc. I admired the work of many artists in various comics and comic books, usually of the dramatic type, but no specific comics or styles of comic - except most of them were not superhero titles.

WS: Talking about your backup stories to Doctor Who Weekly, I really love "4-D War"! I mean, you accomplish so much in terms of artwork considering it's only a 4-page story. What finishing techniques do you use there?

DL: I always love to experiment if I get the chance, and the idea of using wash to depict the portal world - if that's what you're referring to - to differentiate it was easy to put into practice. The separate drawings were screened into half-tone prints, then actually stuck on the artwork - the printer didn't have to do any separations. And when the characters are fragmented in space, well, that was achieved by just cutting the prints up and sticking them down in place.
As far as the page count is concerned - well, a lot of story can be told in a small number of pages, but these days comics take their time spinning a yarn. It's one way the industry can hold on to it's fan base and keep comics selling when sales are falling.

Next: V for Vendetta!

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